Drive Angry (2011)

Posted: May 18, 2011 in Movies

Nicolas Cage is the most confusing actor on the planet. He’s absolutely owned the screen in such films as Raising Arizona and Leaving Las Vegas, yet left us cringing at such disasters as The Wicker Man and World Trade Center. He can be so good at times and so awful at others it makes one wonder if he has an identical twin that didn’t get the full dose of the acting gene that takes the roles the “real” Nic Cage doesn’t want.

Even most of his latest roles have had issues. From the underacting Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider to the over-acting Benjamin Gates in the National Treasure franchise, Cage just can’t seem to get his levels right. In fact. Cage hasn’t really pumped out a normal, all-american role since before 1999’s Bringing Out The Dead – a strange (yet masterful) performance that opened up a jar of weird for Cage that he just can’t seem to get the lid back on tight.

That’s not to say Cage doesn’t do weird well. In Lord of War, Cage nailed it as a quirky arms dealer. His role as Damon Macready/Big Daddy in Kick-Ass was masterful, and even the self-made (and intentional) dullness of Behrman von Bleiruck in Season of the Witch was worth the price of admission. That said, it seems that Cage has developed a knack for adding quirkiness to roles that really didn’t need it (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice/Bangkok Dangerous), and I’m forced to wonder if Cage hasn’t just simply gone mad over all these years.

His latest film is 2011’s Drive Angry, and let’s just say the trend of strange continues for Nic Cage. With a $75 million budget and a decent core of surrounding actors, I was fully prepared to see Cage return to his straight-man persona from his other huge action film Gone In Sixty Seconds. What we got instead was yet another peculiar character made even more eccentric by Cage’s penchant for being odd.

The story revolves around Cage’s character Milton, who has inexplicably escaped from Hell to avenge the murder of his daughter and kidnapping of his granddaughter – both at the hands of Satanic cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke). The cult plans to sacrifice the granddaughter at the next full moon, and it’s up to Milton to stop them. To aid his pursuit, Milton teams up with a girl named Piper (the beautiful Amber Heard) who happens to have just left her job and boyfriend and also has – of all things – a souped-up Dodge Charger. King becomes aware that Milton is trying to stop him, and in turn sends his cult-following minions out to stop his pursuit. It’s the movies, so of course the minions drop like flies, and Milton and King face off in a climactic conclusion to determine the fate of the soon-to-be-sacrificed child.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well – not exactly.

First of all, Piper is unaware of Milton’s “walking dead” status for much of the movie – even when Milton asks to use her “portable phone” and gives many other hints that he is actually not from this world. Secondly, Milton has the natural desire to take in as many of life’s pleasures as possible while back on living earth – which leads to a couple of egregious sex scenes along the way that take the movie to a hard-R rating. Thirdly, the violence is over-the-top. Director Patrick Lussier (Dracula 2000) takes the shoot-’em-up approach to the next level with the action scenes, where losing a hand or a side of the face is status quo. Even Milton himself takes a wicked gunshot to the face, and carries the wound throughout a large chunk of the film. But that’s not where the weird ends.

Throughout the film, Milton is himself being pursued by a character known simply as “The Accountant” – played masterfully by William Fitchner. You will recognize Fitchner from his tons of supporting roles (he was the bank manager in The Dark Knight), but never before have you seen him like this. He makes Cage’s strangeness seem like nothing as he steals the movie with his dry, funny, oblivious role as the grim reaper-esque guard of Hades out to capture Milton and return him to hell. His performance alone makes this film worth seeing, and while his character weaves in and out of the plot of the film, the mark left by his role is undeniable.

Which brings us back around full-circle to Nicolas Cage. While taking on a strange role, he get’s out-stranged by Fitchner, but not for lack of trying. Cage’s actions and dialogue continue to confuse and amaze me at the same time. I just can’t tell if he’s using his 30-plus years of experience in the business to ACT weird, or if something just isn’t right in that brain of his. Either way, this movie did nothing to clear up that conundrum. Place a bit of an off-actor in a bit of an off-role, and the result is usually acceptable. And that’s what Drive Angry is – acceptable.

It’s a nice combination of a normal action movie with a bit of a Natural Born Killers or True Romance thrown in for good measure. Add a touch of satan-worship and supernatural powers (and weaponry), and you’ve got yourself a good reason to sit on the couch for 90 minutes. It’s B-Movie material with A-Movie budget. The effects and explosions were pretty decent, and the story kept you involved all the way through. It’s by no means Cage’s best work, but it’s far from his worst. And if and when Cage’s performance loses you, Beard’s beauty and sass brings you right back in. It’s probably not something you’ll watch more than once, but it probably deserves that one viewing for fans of Cage, or of this kind of movie.

A bit of a warning, however – this isn’t for the kids. The violence is a bit rough, and the sex scenes leave little to the imagination. It’s rated R for a reason. Drive Angry is available on DVD, BluRay, and (unnecessarily) BluRay-3D on May 31, 2011.

6.5/10

http://www.amazon.com/Drive-Angry-Nicolas-Cage/dp/B004EPYZOO/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1305735713&sr=1-1

IMDB: Here | Wiki: Here

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